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Development of Automobile Advertising
By C. G. Huntington (HERE is absolutely no doubt It was said that automobiling for
that the manufacture of auto- pleasure would cease all of a sudden mobiles has a lasting place when perhaps least expected. And all
among the principal industries this is suggested by the arguments used of the United States. Its rise and prog- in advertisements of the manufacturers ress during the last few years has been in 1900, 1901, and 1902. wonderfully rapid, but there has been W e note that of the automobiles now nothing ephemeral in its character. The in existence, the first ones to be regustory to date since 1895 has been one of larly manufactured, advertised, sold and constant advancement. The manner of delivered included the Columbia electric, this progress has been reflected in the Duryea, Haynes-Apperson, Winton and advertising published by the different Pittsburg (the last the forerunner of the makers. This advertising has not de- present Autocar). veloped in a straight line, but in what The makers of all these vehicles admight be termed a zigzag forward mo- vertised in early issues of the Horsetion.
less Age (first published in 1895), the Since the early days there has been a earliest paper to be established in the good deal of "follow the leader” tactics automobile class field in this country. observable in the announcements which From its inception the industry has have appeared in the magazines and grown more rapidly than any other in newspapers, but the whole mass of ad- the history of American enterprise and vertising, if one could get it in con- the amount of advertising has gathered venient form for inspection, would volume accordingly. faithfully portray the rapid change of Eight years ago there was practically the automobile from the experimental no newspaper advertising of automobiles half toy to one of those indispensables and comparatively little in the literary which are inseparably welded to the magazines and weeklies. In December, necessities of the times and have become 1906, seven of the leading magazines prominent factors in the advancement alone contained 86 pages of automobile of civilization.
advertising and the New York daily Previous to 1895 occasional machines newspapers during the months of Sepwere manufactured and advertised and tember, October and November printed these first announcements impress one 375,839 lines of automobile advertising. as having been tentative and half At present the outlook appears to be apologetic, in keeping with public opin- more favorable than ever before for ion of those days which argued that those who are striving to make the "horseless carriages" had no business on most effective application of invention the public roads and streets, and that any and business ability to the construction attempt to manufacture them in a large and distribution of automobiles and this, way would be met by restrictive legis- so far as we can see, applies equally to lation which would render such enter the future of automobile advertising. prise extremely hazardous. As the in- There is especially a brilliant future dustry advanced it was argued that the in sight for utility vehicles, such as runAmerican people were prone to adopt abouts, city carriages of coach types, defads and new pleasures with great en- livery wagons and trucks. It may he thusiasm and then throw them down asked what the prospect is for the use hard to be repudiated forever after. of automobiles by farmers and the an
swer is obvious. Already some of the leading manufacturers are making in quiry into the practicability of special forms of self-propelled vehicles for use in agricultural districts, and particularly on large farms of the West where long distances have to be covered by the owners, managers, and foremen on their tours of inspection.
Some modification of present designs for this special use is strongly indicated, and we confidently expect in the near future a part of the advertising of the more prominent makers will be designed to engage the attention of agriculturists. We do not here of course, refer to traction machines for the more rapid performance of actual farm work, which are already well established, but to cars intended for the conveyance of passengers.
Now a word as to the character of contemporary automobile advertising:
A year or two ago an enterprising advertising man sent out a circular letter to automobile manufacturers in which he claimed that no one car occupied a leading place in the automobile field for the reason that none was properly advertised. The current advertisements of the day, he said, all looked alike, said about the same thing, and were so similar .generally that one would suppose them to be made up by the same person. None of them, he thought, was an eye catcher and none possessed any magnetic power of attraction; in fact, he thought automobile advertising in general was not the least convincing. In contradistinction he cited the leadership of certain cereals, soaps, washing powders, lamp chimneys, collars, whiskies, etc., as being due entirely to the originality and force of the advertising put out by their respective manufacturers.
It would be rather hard on any automobile to assume that its possible leadership would have to depend wholly on advertising, leaving the actual merit of the car entirely out of the question, but we must admit that a good deal of
ground exists to-day for the criticism this advertising man offered; for it is quite true that a great many automobile advertisements bear a close resemblance to one another, precisely as the automobiles themselves do; but we also note that the most successful automobile manufacturers to-day are among those who have done the best advertising.
Take up any leading magazine and look through the automobile advertisements. You will usually find a trademark and a cut of the car followed by more or less talk about reliability, progressive methods, perfection of construction, strength, durability, luxury, simplicity of operation, etc. Then something follows about catalogues, the manufacturer's name, branch houses and so on. Almost any one of the advertisements to be thus classed would be strong if read alone by itself, but in the company of others closely resembling it, force and impressiveness are lost. Perhaps three or four of the leading makers are really original and convincing in their announcements, but at least a few of them could almost swap advertisements with each other and hardly lose thereby.
A notable exception to the general sameness of automobile advertising is found in the announcements of some of the electric carriage manufacturers whose respective lines differ from those of any other make and afford excellent opportunity for strong and convincing talk. This opportunity in one or two instances and especially by the Electric Vehicle Company, makers of Columbia electric and gasoline cars has been made much of. Credit must also be given certain manufacturers of gasoline. cars, notably the makers of the Columbia, Franklin, Olds and one or two others who have taken advantage of special performances in the way of record runs, endurance contests, hill climbing feats, and so on, to set forth strong and telling arguments. Actual performances